New hires rarely work out (almost 1/2 fail within 18 months!)
It’s sad how bad we’re doing. Is there a better way?
News Release (WASHINGTON, D.C.) — According to a new study by Leadership IQ, 46% of newly-hired employees will fail within 18 months, while only 19% will achieve unequivocal success. For more on another theory, read “Why New Hires Fail.”
In this chart, the red represents failure, blue is so-so performance and green is “unequivocal success” Conclusion: The current approach gives you a great chance at failure, a decent chance at a so-so hire, and almost no chance of hiring a linchpin - someone who works outside established rules to create exceptional results.
The Fallacy of the Job Description
Why do companies keep making hiring mistakes? I believe it’s because they rely on an ineffective approach - evaluating candidates based on the job description. They are trying to turn a 3D person into a 2D list of skills.
You’re the hiring manager
Here is an actual case study:
You’re hiring for a large software company and you are looking for someone to own global responsibility for your largest customer - a huge global firm. Revenue has been stagnant and competitors are nipping at your heels. Time for a change.
You have three candidates under consideration- we’ll call them A, B and C:
- Candidate A - The current rep on the account. Has handled this huge global client for three years and is well-respected.
- Candidate B - New employee. He wowed everyone with a fast start, but never handled this account and is new to the industry. Does not know the account or the industry.
- Candidate C - Handles that global account for our #1 competitor
Whom do you hire?
- Undoubtedly the vast majority of hiring managers choose C (competitor rep) - he has experience in our industry and with the client - a safe choice. We try to steal him from our competitor.
- Many would choose A (existing rep) - she has experience and client experience too.
- Few if any would choose B (green rep) - as he has no experience in our industry or with the customer. They might try if he was an existing employee, but no one would hire B off the street to do this job.
You’re in luck. All three did the job, so we have measurable results from all. We can examine actual results of each.
Bottom line: It was no contest. One’s results dwarfed the others. But the results are not at all what we expected.
- Candidate A was up first- revenue continued to decline. She was pushed to the side.
- Candidate B was up second - revenue shot up by an unheard of 224% in the first 12 months. But after our company shipped a buggy release and lost a key services person, he resigned.
- Candidate C (the best choice) - After B left, we went out and took the rep on the client from our top competitor. But he did not last 6 months - he was unable to touch Candidate B’s results. We fired him.
Conclusion: Candidate B was the best choice by far. The one no one would choose.
To understand why that happened, let’s examine all three candidates.
A and C were traditional product salespeople. They were old school. But candidate B was very different - he worked differently. His passion, teamwork skills and creativity made him a star. He devised a brilliant plan and executed it to perfection. He had the unique ability to see the world through other’s eyes - for instance, to get the rep in Italy to call on the global client. He knew that he had to make the global client the EASIEST of her 30 accounts to sell.
No one else had a plan - they were salespeople, while he was an executive leader. But a job description would not uncover this candidate.
Problem is that any job description for the role would quickly eliminate our ideal candidate. Missing experience would have killed his candidacy.
This begs a question. How do we find stars, especially when we cannot rely on standard measures of experience and industry knowledge?
The key thing we need to do IMHO is to stop driving everything through a detailed job description. Critical information is missing - namely, the personality characteristics of the star employee.
I believe the answer is for companies, before they search for new employees, they look to their top performers. Since you want to hire a top performer, learn about what makes a top performer.
Ask questions of your top performers to learn what makes them different from run of the mill employees. For instance, ask
- What is about these people that makes them so successful?
- What are the personality traits?
- What are the interpersonal skills?
- Name a time you failed. What did you learn from it and how did you recover? (Stars fail fast and learn.)
- Tell me a time of when you did something for someone else without asking for anything in return. (Stars are self-less.)
Use what you learn to create a very different job description. I bet you’ll start including factors like passion, honesty, creativity and listening skills.
While I’m today President of the B2B lead generation consultancy, Find New Customers today, I’m was Candidate B at the huge software firm.
By the way, I was featured in the popular book for job-seeking professionals, Get Back to Work Faster.
What do you think? Why do hiring mistakes keep happening over and over? Do you agree or disagree with my advice?